Friday, December 31, 2010

More and Less for Maintaining this One Woman Show

Last year was pretty darn awesome, and if it ain't broken, why bother fixing it?
Because some improvements can always be made... And since I'm running a one-woman-show on all levels, a few strategies are essential for survival, which I would like to think of as the more or less strategy:

More of:
Stopping to smell the roses - and looking for them roses to smell. This includes all lab time and research of raw materials, wandering around fragrant plants and stinky objects on the beach that I encounter on a daily basis. It's food for my soul and where I draw on for inspiration and exploration.

Quality and craftsmanship: even more than ever, I'm interested in the craftsmanship of other perfumers, soapmakers and artisans. And if anything, I'm more excited to explore the work of other independent lines rather than mass-produced perfumes that were created by a giant corporate team.

Breath - burn incense, sip tea, practice Pilates - these are my prerequisites for my own personal sanity and peace of mind. I greatly missed those things in the past few weeks of the pre-holiday madness.

Quality time in my bikini, preferably on a warm sandy beach, but when that's not possible the swimming pool will certainly do.

Now that I'm done with my fanbook with ad copy for perfumes up to 2010 - I'm on to my next mamoth project (translating my entire website into French)

Writing: my recipe book project I conceived in 2010 will begin this year

Collaborations: these prove to be more successful than ever this year, and I'm going to continue to collaborate with other passionate artisans and business-people whose craft can complement mine and benefit from my own insights and experience.

Custom perfumes: will be focusing more on that this year, encouraged by last year's increase of interest in signature perfumes.

More real: I need to spend more time in the real world with real essences, real notebooks and real people. Less in the virtual world. And I seem to not be the only one in need for nourishment of their sensory world - which brings me to the next "more" -

More tea parties and other private events at my studio (or other spaces).

Sleep: Be in bed by 10:00pm every night (because no matter what, I always wake up at 6:30 and I do need to get my sleep to be able to keep running this one-woman-show).

I have lots planned for this coming year, which I have been working on in 2010 and prior but have been brewing and aging the concepts as well as the actual perfumes. I'm looking forward to sharing them with you and

Less of:

Sitting at the computer, no matter how supposedly important social networking is - or how fun and creative that could be or how many books I'm planning to write this year. Easier said than done.

Markets and trade shows. Private events are certainly the way to go for me so I'd rather invest my energy in that.

Travel. I do not like to travel, and it's about time I stop being embarrassed by it. I intend to do as little traveling as possible in this year or ever in my life. When I do travel, I'd like to see it as a necessary evil or the means to an end (visiting family or acquire education or training). To each their own, and those of you who philosophically manage to trek through the jungle and explore new life forms - kudos to you. As for me - I'm perfectly happy sitting in my little lab staring at the skylight and traveling to the beach and back on a daily basis and I won't feel my life is any less fascinating just because it's lived in a 10km radius or so. To each their own...

Synthetics. It was not intentional, it just turned out to be this way - that in 2010 I hardly used any synthetic perfumes or body products. While I'm no purist and I don't intend to isolate myself from the perfumery world at large, I have to admit I really enjoyed the benefits of wearing and using only natural scents and body products. I'm just overall happier about this and enjoy saving myself the misery of encounters with "scrubbers".

Saturday is my day off.
I'm determined to shut this machine off once a week from Friday night till Sunday morning, and spend time with my family and friends instead. Just because I have an online business does not mean that my brain (and the laptop attached to it) have to work 24/7.
I'm on to this now... so farewell and see you all on Sunday!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Best of 2010

Obsession of the year:
Swimming with seaweed and seals in Sunset beach. I've written about this so much that I don't think I need to remind you how much I love the ocean and how grateful I am for every sunny-enough day and water temperatures of 16c or over that enable me to swim in real salty ocean water with living creatures without suffering from hypothermia.
And as a result -

Favourite Accord:
Seaweed and rosemary.
Prepare to be introduced to 2 seaweed-based perfumes this coming year…

Favourite Note:
The leathery, apricot/peach and tea-like qualities of osmanthus are lovely and complex.
I can't get enough of it this year - in perfume, in tea, in truffles, and in shortbread cookies. I seem to not be able to get enough of osmanthus and you'll smell more of what I created with it in the past year in 2011 (hint: mark your calendars for March 8th, aka Mardi Gras!).
I'm also thrilled to have finally found an Osmanthus Oolong that is fragrant and to my liking, and am looking forward to trying the osmanthus tea (flowers only) from Shaktea, which is very fresh, almost moist-looking, and with an even fruitier aroma than the dried osmanthus flowers I'm accustomed to.

Discovery of the year:
Spicy Orientals
I think I finally nailed down the trick for making these one smell irresistible and scrumptious, rather than a patchouli-spicy mess.

Tea of the Year:
Milky Oolong

Incense of the Year:
Japanese Osmanthus incense from my friend Noriko.
Not the classic Japanese incense, and not as pure - but did I mention how much I'm into osmanthus this year yet?

Favourite Natural Perfume:
Dawn Spencer Hurwitz's Bancha. Citrusy and fresh and classy. Not usually the fragrance family I'm drawn into, but this year was unusual in my selection all around. It's refreshing and well constructed and reminds me just a little bit of green tea.

Candle of the Year:
After making my dream candle come true (Bois d’Hiver), Gabriel’s Aunt surprised me with her newest creation, Winter Moss: green and bitter with loads of oakmoss, cypress and galbanum. This is what Rainforest or Grin would have smelled like if we were to turn them into a candle. I’m fascinated by the possibilities of naturally scented soywax candles.

Favourite Tea House:
Michi Espresso & Waffle Bar (the name is deceiving). They are so close that I just got to love them!
Unforutnatley, they changed their menu and no longer serve their AMAZING matcha shortbread cookies (which were the best I've ever had and just to die for). So they are now my favourite spot for pure tea only - either the Japanese cherry white tea, or classic Japanese matcha.

Household Product of the Year:

Nelly’s laundry nuggets and dryer balls – both unscented and fabulous. No more synthetic musks in my laundry, thank you!

Most Fabulous Fragrant Moment this Year:
Smelling ozone in the water while swimming in Sunset beach (did I mention yet how much I enjoyed my ocean swimming this year?)

Most Peculiar Fragrant Moment this Year:
If you stand in front of the sunglasses store on Robson street, just between La Vie En Rose and the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, you will get more than just a waft of what could be the closest thing in real life to Rosine’s Rose Praline – melted butter and chocolate fudge from the Rocky candy shop merged with synthetic rose fragrance from the lingerie chain shop. How the ladies there can keep up with the scent for their 8 hour shift is above and beyond my imagination.

Spice of the year:
Black Cardamom!
I got introduced to black cardamom just a couple of months ago, while reading Vij’s at Home – East Indian home-cooking by this inspiring couple – Meeru Dhalwala and Vikram Vij (they own the restaurants Vij’s and Rangoli in Vancouver). Black cardamom is smoky and more rustic than the green fancy one more commonly used in chai and desserts. I enjoy experimenting with black cardamom, in the savoury reciped from that book (black chickpeas with tamarind and star anise) and in my own dessert experiments – Black Beauty truffles, for instance.

Favourite Scented Body Product:
Vetiver soap bar by Royal Herbs. Other than that, I was mostly using my own sugar scrubs and body oils (my personal favourite is Song of Songs).

Classic re-discovery of the year:
Vintage 1000 by Patou
This got me on a roll with osmanthus as a note - probably the most dominant perfume influence on me this year, in addition to Un Crime Exotique.

Most worn this year:
Admittedly, I was mostly wearing my own perfumes – not ones that you are familiar with, but those that are in the works (the rosemary-seaweed drenched Orcas and my ginger and amber one whose name I won’t release for now). Aside from that, the ones I’ve worn the most from other lines were:
Eau d’Hermes
Eau d’Orange Vert
Un Crime Exotique
Le Parfum de Therese
1000 by Patou

The Disappointment of the Year:
Voyage d'Hermès
Synthetic musk all over again. It made me even less interested in trying any perfumes with synthetics for the remainder of the year - to the point that I can say I'm in a no-musk olfactory diet of sorts.

Most promising perfumer:
Jessica Buchannan of 1000Flowers. I'm looking forward to smelling what she will come up with when her all-natural/sustainable synthetic line will be launched, and will be using macrocyclic musks (which should be safer than the nitro musks and polycyclic musks that are used at large in detergents and such). Jessica is from Canada (Nelson, BC to be exact) - and moved to Grasse to study perfumery, so I'm really looking forward to smell what she will come up with.

For more comprehensive best-of lists, read what the other participating scent blogs have to say about 2010:

Roxana Illuminated Perfume
Scent Hive

Tomorrow I'll share with you my New Year's Resolutions for 2011!


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

2010 – Year in Review

Longish Preface to My Short “Best of 2010” List

Trish of Scent Hive has invited me to write about the best of 2010, and I knew when agreeing that this was not going to be an easy task. You see, if judging by what I write about on SmellyBlog, and what I was wearing on my skin, this year to me can be summed up in one descriptive line – “The Year of Self-Absorbency”. In reality, this year was more like “The Year of Working Relentlessly, and Collaborating with Amazing People”.

This year, I have decided to take a break from travels (this year I have finally come to the realization that it’s ok to admit how much I hate traveling). Nothing makes me happier than spending the whole entire year within the safety and the comfort of my little neaighbourhood, surrounded by nothing but ocean, trees and a bunch of highrises. If it wan’st for my family living so far away in Israel perhaps I would have enjoyed traveling to new places, but most of my trips are back home and they simply drain the life out of me. So I hope to do as little as possible in the future and earn enough money to fly my family all the way here or meet me somewhere in the middle of the way (some unknown island in the Atlantic, or even Nova Scotia would be a good compromise to me).

Instead of traveling this year, I spent the summer developing my new line of simple and elegant, all natural body products. I was fortunate to have Olivier Biedermann by my side - my intern from Switzerland, who is a perfumery student at ISIPCA and an accomplished cosmetics chemist that has a deep understanding of the natural oils used in body and skin care. He also has a very sensitive nose and was just a delight to work with and get to know. At the end of the summer, I had the formulas for my two dream sugar scrubs finalized, as well as 4 scented body oils that are used as moisturizers (except that being oils, they don’t require any preservative, just vitamin E as an anti-oxidant). I’ve been enjoying the use of these products so much that I have been purchasing very little else in the realm of body and bath products – except for some locally made soap bars.

My other incredible project was the chocolate bars I created with chocolatiere Rachel Sawatzky of CocoaNymph. This collaboration was a dream come true for me – not only because I love dark chocolate and was just thrilled to turn three of my most innovative and favourite truffle flavours into non-perishable and easy to ship (or mail!) bars – but also because it’s good to delegate and not do everything myself. And Rachel is a pleasure to work with and I know that these bars are created by good loving hands and the products is always top notch. This way I can spend less time rolling truffles except for when I really feel like coming up with a fun new flavour for a tea party or some other event.

As far as trying new perfumes – I’ve been so busy with my own business, as well as with teaching, that I found very little time to try any of the new launches this year. And there is also a personal reason for that: I’m feeling not only quite jaded about the whole perfume industry and how many perfumes are released every year, but also am so fed up with smelling synthetic musks everywhere I go. Almost all the people I happen to hug (yes, I admit, I’m a hugger) – reek of synthetic musks without even knowing it. They think it’s the scent of their laundry or – worse – their own “natural skin scent”. If they only knew that what they smell is chemicals that were designed to never leave their skin or the water systems of this planet perhaps they would have thought twice before using those innocenst soap bars, shower gels or laundry drying sheets. This is probably why I was so disappointed in Voyage d'Hermès: it smelled like very little else besides musk. And what I loved most about this house till now is the absence of that dominant, generic underlining presence of this overly-done synthetic note.

If Basenotes is up to par with how many new scent there are than there is an improvement this year: only 285 launches (in contrast to last year’s 584 fragrances). And among them, the niche houses seem to have so much more presence than ever. Sadly, I can’t say I even got to scrape the surface of the very tip of this little iceberg. And unfortunately, the ones that I have tried left me with such a disappointment in my nose that I felt very discouraged from going through the trouble of sourcing out the more rare or hard to find niche scents. Also, as a counter-reaction to what the previous years have been, I only released one scent this year – the limited edition Frangipanni Gloves, which helped to raise funds and rescue the Bloedel Conservatory. Aside from that, I honestly felt that coming up with the world’s first perfume-inspired chocolate bars and my little modest line of hand-made body products should suffice for this year.

I will share with you my “Best of 2010” list tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Chocolate & Berries

shy cardinal, originally uploaded by betty wiley.

Today was my first time at the perfumer's organ in a long time. Last time was sometime in October (not counting any blending for replenishing batches). There is simply no room for creativity during market season, it's too busy.
This morning I was finally able to get back to a project I started this fall - the private label perfume for chocolaterie CocoaNymph. I had two directions in mind when I initially drafted my olfactory ideas: one is inspired by the colours of the logo and general whimsical image of the chocolate nymph. The other is inspired by the SeaNymph chocolate bar. Although Rachel was instantly taken with the latter, I decided to go back to the sketch formula and refine the concept I had. Inspired by the berry-like colours (grape-purple, to be exact) of CocoaNymph's logo, I always had in mind this very bold, fruity-chocolate perfume. Something that will be reminiscent of raspberry bonbons (favourites of mine!) or perhaps chocolate-dipped strawberries and a glass of red wine.

What was initially a rather crude rendition of the concept, with cocoa, davana and rose geranium, had to be refined now into something more voluptuous, less herbaceous and more whimsical and urbane. I added some botanical musks to make the base more sophisticated, and fine-tuned the proportions of the davana and geranium, plus added some floral notes that I think will do the trick (and I also think are quite original). I'm really curious to see where this goes after it matures a bit. I have a feeling I stopped adding things at the exact right moment before ruining a good idea... So I'm going to wait patiently for a week and see what happens and how it smells on my skin than.

In the meantime - I have 2 more custom scents to work on (the private label perfume for Gentille Alouette as well as another private client). Not to mention many perfumes that need to be replenished so that I'm fully stocked for the New Year and Valentine's Day (yes, I know it's madness to think of a 2011 hallmark holiday when it's still December 2010, but it really is just 6 weeks away!).

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Tea and Quiet

I'm immensley enjoying my winter vacation. No travels, no big scary dinners, and lots of catching up with sleep, the gym, my family and friends - all of which were sadly neglected in the past 2 months when I was practically hopping from one market to another with events at my local retailers thrown in for an extra measure of fun.

Now I am spending my days in quite, and my daughter insists that we do a "tea party" at least once a day (but preferably after every meal). We even made it to Shaktea twice within the past week. The name of the place alone is something to love - as a Hebrew speaker, it reminds me of the word "sheket" (quiet) and is so appropriate: this tea room is like a little tea temple.

Because it is not particularly close to where we live, so we don't get there very often. But when we do, it's a real treat on every level - the tea menu is fun reading material on its own, the desserts are spectacular, the savoury dishes are innovative and prepared to perfection. The ambience is quiet and serene and non-pretentious (as it often is in high-end tea rooms). Not to mention that the service is excellent, because it's privately owned by two fine ladies - Maria and Tanya. And they remember what you like or what your kids are not allowed to have too much of (sugar), and are equally passionate and knowledgeable about their teas.

Last week I stopped there in hopes of finding some tea bags to pack my excess amount of milky oolong and share it as Christmas gifts to all my tea-loving girlfriends, but ended up getting them new teas in little 50gr bags that Shaktea had just for the holidays (they usually sell loose leaf teas in bags of 100gr or 200gr). This enabled me to discover some interesting teas that I wouldn't have normally gotten for myself - such as a coffee-scented pu'er (!) with a very smooth aroma for my pu'er loving friend Tina; and a caramel-cream black tea for Monique, plus two minty concoctions (Moroccan mint, and another mint tisane) for two other friends.

Today I stopped by to say hi to the ladies before they take off on their annual buying trip to China and Taiwan, and also to bring Tanya some samples of light florals that I thought she'll enjoy while traveling. And I decided to use that opportunity to also take a sip of the teas that I was giving away (and see if I need to buy any for myself as well!). I ordered the Dream of Coffee Pu'er for myself, and it was so smooth you'd think there was milk and sugar in there. It had the richness of mocha (there is some cocoa essence in there as well), and the underlining rich earthiness of pu'er. Interesting way to enjoy the flavour of coffee and the benefits of tea (and probably a total sacrilege for pure pu'er lovers). I really enjoyed it and am curious to hear what Tina would have to say about it (she is so not a coffee person, so I was taking my chances with this one). I didn't get any more for home because I already have 2 different kinds of pu'er I rarely drink pu'er (only when Tina comes over, come to think of it).

My daughter wanted green tea, so I got her the Moroccan Mint, which is a gunpowder tea blended with Nana (aka spearmint). Ideally, one would use fresh sprigs of spearmint for this concoction. But this is an excellent alternative when my balcony's spearmint is on winter hybernation. She let me have a sip and so I decided to take a bag of this home with me, and we had more of that after dinner. It was delightful - on its own, as well as with a hint of sugar and a sprinkle of orange flower water (a trick I learned in the Moroccan restaurant in St. Germain quarter in Paris). And of course we dipped the jasmine-osmanthus shortbread cookies in there for an extra measure of decadence. I think that recipe is going to make it to my cookbook.

I also got to take home with me some other samples of tea - a very fresh osmanthus and the French Earl Gray that smells delightful and floral (and is used in some of the fruit preserves served on the Shaktea tea sandwiches and toasts, which are a must try if you are there - I think I like them even more than the pastries - which is quite unusual, especially since the pastries at Shaktea are exceptionally wonderful). Will tell you more about them after I steep and brew.

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Cinnamon Buttons

One of the delights of having such a small operation such as Ayala Moriel Parfums is that I get to meet kind, sweet and inspiring people. One of them is Jean, who is a tea aficionado first and foremost, and would come to Portobello every month to stock up on my fragrant teas and truffles, and to find a new favourite perfume to sample from my collection.
She is also an avid knitter, and sources out the most unusual yarn to knit whimsical sweaters, hats, scarves and shrugs. When she told me that her favourite past time was to sit and knit while wearing one of my perfumes, sipping a good cup of tea, and savouring a truffle in between rows of knitting an elaborate pattern.

Jean introduced me to these curious cinnamon buttons: she worn one of those pins to keep closed a shawl she made and showed me how to rub them to release a sweet cinnamon aroma. The spiraling designs are non other than sliced cinnamon sticks!
(It took me a while to get it - these are really made from a stack of cinnamon sticks that were sliced up...). Spices can never cease to fascinate me. And cinnamon goes way beyond the cliches of mulled wine, hot apple cider or holiday potpourri for me. Cinnamon is ground up comfort, and brings sweetness and intrigue to any dish, perfume or -- an outfit!

They can be found at Button Button - 318 Homer Street in Vancouver (just across the street and a few stairs up from their original location). (604) 687-0067

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

Boxing Day

Good morning!
Hope you had a fabulous and peaceful Christmas :-)
I don't ever do Boxing Day sales, but the shops that carry my perfumes in Vancouver do - so check out House of Jewels (953 Nicola @ Barclay) for up to 40% off, and Dream Apparel (Cordova) and Little Dream (Netloft in Granville Island) for up to 20% off on everything they have in store.
Happy shopping!


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Winter Berries, originally uploaded by Ayala Moriel.

Season's greetings to all of SmellyBlog readers celebrating Christmas today.
May your day be peaceful, joyous and full of laughter and homely fragrances of baking and coniferous trees.


Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Winter Solstice & Lunar Eclipse 2010

Lunar Eclipse 2010, originally uploaded by biswamber.

I envy all of those living in places where you can see the stars at night. Living in (usually cloudy) city does not make it easy to stay connected with any interesting planetary action. But everyone was talking much about the total lunar eclipse coinciding with the winter solstice and I obviously missed it (being fast asleep, thank goodness!).

Excuses aside, tonight is the longest night of the year. Or was it yesterday? I'm getting all confused... Part of me wants to say up all night and beat it to the ground. And my other half just wants to crawl into bed with that flannel pyjama I was finally able to pick up from Robson street (it's very close, but I was practically unable to take care of anything besides business for up until now).

We live exactly where winter solstice should smell better than any other time of the year: people will be bringing in a tree, and the weather is perfectly cold, wet and gloomy for baking and filling the home with the aromas of warm spices.

Seasonality is beautiful in the sense that there is something familiar and expected (putting on that cozy sweater again, cooking that winter soup again, crawling into bed with a book that you haven't opened in a while. But every year is different, and there is always a sense attached to whatever it is that's different - intentional or random. That's why I like to find new interesting things that are appropriate for the season but I didn't know about before.

In these past few days of winter vacation (finally!), I've been enjoying my Bois d'Hiver candle, bathing in Spruce or Hinoki bath salts (I'm craving woods, rather than the Yuzu I bathed in previous years) and sipping a new tea I discovered that smells a lot like Fête d'Hiver! It's a black tea with rose, vanilla, cloves, cinnamon, orange and cardamom. And so I will be also burning Winter Moss candle this season which is bitterly green (by Gabriel's Aunt). Chai tea will be prepared with black cardamom for a tinge of smokiness, and hot cocoa will be cooked with whole chilli pepper and fine ceylon cinnamon scrolls instead of the sweet cassia bark. Subtle, but different.

As far as perfume goes, I'm mostly caught wearing my body oils in Megumi or Song of Songs. And in addition - usually by midday I'll spray-on non other than my Orcas perfume (which I fully intend on sharing with you in the spring of 2010). It's brisk rosemary and splash of salty waves was what I need to restore my alertness in those dreadfully-long weeks of work and restlessness. And the occasional dab of Hinoki perfume for unwinding at the end of a day.

"Dark spruce forest frowned on either side the frozen waterway. The trees had been stripped by a recent wind of their white covering of frost, and they seemed to lean towards each other, black and ominous, in the fading light. A vast silence reigned over the land. The land itself was a desolation, lifeless, without movement, so lone and cold that the spirit of it was not even that of sadness. There was a hint in it of laughter, but of laughter more terrible than any sadness-a laughter that was mirthless as the smile of the Sphinx, a laughter cold as the frost and partaking of the grimness of infallibility. It was the masterful and incommunicable wisdom of eternity laughing at the futility of life and the effort of life. It was the Wild, the savage, frozen-hearted Northland Wild." - Jack London, "White Fang"


Two Articles in the Vancouver Sun!

This morning, the Vancouver Sun featured our scented chocolate bars in two pieces:

Last-minute buying this Christmas? Think local
- where Rachel Sawatzky of CocoaNymph (aka my sweet and awesome chocolatiere) is interviewed (and the print edition would also have her photograph - scan to come after I leave the house and get the paper).

Wrapping up the feeling of home
- gift guide of homely BC articles, including the chocolates

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Winter Jasmine: Scent Hive Reviews Epice Sauvage

Visit ScentHive to read Trish's review of Épice Sauvage, a warm spicy-oriental with honey, cedar and opoponax that has been very popular with my gentlemen customers (it's the one scent that I constantly get requests for the large 10ml roll-on oil). On Trish the jasmine really comes through, which I find very interesting - just goes to show you how important body chemistry is - there is very little jasmine in this formula and on me personally, it smells like a Rosh Hashannah honeycake and musk in a cedarwood chest...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Osmanthe-Saffran Truffles

Here is a snapshot of my Osmanthe-Saffran truffles in the making. I make them square or diamond shape rather than round, because I like to sprinkle the saffron on top for the visual effect. Having it inside the truffles will give the same flavour, but not the crunchiness of biting into the roasted crocus stamens; and you won't be able to see the saffron threads until biting into the truffles.
The diamond shape is also an homage to the exotic Middle Eastern desserts that are often made in large trays and cut into diamonds (harrissa, baclava and sesame or nut barks are cut that way).
This is my 2nd time making thes luxurious truffles. And the first times, I'm always experimenting with flavours and spices. In the 1st time creating these, I infused the cream with osmanthus flowers, and added saffron salt and saffron gin.
The 2nd time around, I infuesed the cream with my favourite milky oolong tea (which is also the flavour of the dark chocolate truffles that share the tray in the photograph below). I forgot about the gin, unfortunately. For the osmanthus flavour, I used osmanthus absolute. I think if it weren't for the missing gin, this would have been the winning recipe.

I still have both of these truffle flavours for sale. They make a perfect gift (boxed in our reusable tins and tied with a bow - 12 truffles for $15); and they are an elegant, stress-free dessert for any festive meal or afternoon tea with special guests.

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London MakeUp Girl Reviews Espionage

Visit London MakeUp Girl to read her review of Espionage perfume.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Beautiful & Local: 2010 Holiday Gift Guide

Local, Elegant, Green and Beautiful. That's what I want the products I buy, give or receive. So this is what this holiday gift guide is all about.

This year seems particularly challenging financially for most people I know, so it's even more important to support your local community. When you buy from local artists, designers and producers this year, you are benefiting more than just the person who is receiving the gift – you are in fact supporting your local economy and making sure that small independent business owners can continue doing what they are doing and support their families.

Other benefits from shopping local – both for food, produce AND art, fashion or luxury items:
1) Less carbon print on the environment – becaues many of these products are hand crafted by the designers themselves; are not shipped from miles away, and are often made from recycled or rescued materials.
2) By purchasing a quality product you are reducing waste because the product will last longer and can be enjoyed for years to come (not to mention unhappy receivers that end up trashing those unwanted and often useless gifts we get at discount shops)
3) Avoid the mall mayhem and enjoy a more intimate shopping experience at indie shops, craft shows or better yet – directly from the designers at their studio.
4) Enjoy items that are one of a kind, or one of only several – so that you can be sure you are not going to knock into twenty other people wearing the same thing when walking up the street. It will make you feel special. And if anything, you will make a designer’s day when you knock into them on the street ☺

Here are some gifts from my circle of talented friends, who work hard in Vancouver and the area, to create something beautiful, sustainable, unique and reasonably priced products and art pieces. I’m going to shamelessly promote them as I think that if you are from out of town you should know about them. And if you are local, than I’m sure you can find something for nearly everyone on your list (at least among the ladies on it), all within a few miles from where you live.

Practical and Innovative

Re-sealable, reusable and plastic-free food storage - for snacks, lunches and for wrapping food in the fridge. Made by hand in BC from natural fabrics (cotton, linen), and coated with a unique blend of beeswax and plant extracts. These are innovative and environmentally friendly on every level and look adorable too!

Jola V. Designs
Jola V’s handbags and accessories have garnered a quick following for such a young company (1-1/2 years old). Jolanta Va, the designer, hails from Lithuania and after spending much of her adult life in London and New York has developed a unique sense of style that does not compromise comfort and functionality. Her leather bags and accessories are created from surplus leather that was rescued from being shredded and tossed into landfills. And it’s a good thing she did – because some of the leather she finds is so beautiful in both texture and colour, that it’s a wonder why anyone would want to throw it out. For example – the rare orange leather from which my Big Orange bag is made of (this bag is large enough for an overnight supply of clothes and everthing else a woman needs to survive during a trans-Atlantic flight, or even a daily trip to a Pilatest studio). She also has smaller items such as the ball and chain clutch, and the simple yet brilliant wrap-belts, which come in pretty colours and fit any waist size and will complement many outfits.

Designing bikinis in Vancouver seemed to be bordering with madness… Until it’s summer again, or you decide to go on a trip to a warmer place (now’s the time to do it!). I first encountered these bikinis at Dream when I was dropping off my perfumes there this summer. I was all skeptical until I tried the monouche and julie on and each of them fit like a glove (and if you're not in the know, monokinis and strapless are very tricky to fit...). They are surprisingly flattering (you don't need to be a model to look good in them) and so well constructed you'd think they're designed by a woman. If I had it my way, I would wear them all year around and not just on the beach.
The textile art in this line is also an original creation by the designer, and printed here in Vancouver.
The new S/S 2011 collection is out soon. For now you can shop online and in select boutiques around town (Dream, Oliver & Lily’s) for the cutting edge, 40’s inspired collection of 2010 at really good prices.

Irresistible Yumminess

I met Michelle Fattore at Mindan's 1st house sale earlier in December and instantly fell for her Rosemary caramels: Lovely and balanced sweet buttery caramels contrasted with herbaceous rosemary. They are so good they taste as if they are actually good for you.
Michelle Fattore loves tea and uses it in quite a few of her confections. I was particularly surprised by how taken I was with her chocolate-peppermint shorbread. Because not only do I not normally drawn to chocolate shortbread, I also have no affinity with the chocolate-mint combo (brushing my teeth with chocolate? I don’t think so…). These are so pretty, it’s unbelievable. She obviously knows better than to use menthol as a flavouring, and actually used a good peppermint tea in the dough, which also gives them a nice crunchy texture.

The Vanilla Salt Caramel with Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Crunch are Wendy Boys’ signature confection which is absolutely to die for, even for someone who is not normally a peanut-butter lover.
Her sauces are also incredible, and she even added macarons in 4 beautiful colorus and flavours just recently to her menu, which incorporate Wendy’s delicious sauces.

My Chocolate Tree
Nina Pousette has certainly perfected the pairing of passionfruit and chocolate - here passionfruit bonbons and the passionfruit caramel bar are outrageously juicy and tart (I'm glad the latter sold out when I was around...). So is the eggnogg bonbon. All the bonbons and bars and candies are hand-painted and look like pieces of art.

You already know too much about my partnership with this gifted chocolatiere. It’s time to remind you of the wonderful treats that have become winter staples (aka addictions?) in this household:
Sea Nymph chocolate bar with Rachel’s own crunchy and saltier than usual English toffee (you can actually taste the sea in this one!).
Pumpkin Caramel Bonbons, with real pumpkin puree and the irresistible pumpkin spice.
And last but not least - the Garden Nymph white chocolate bar bejeweled with tart cranberries, which I try to hide from my daughter to prevent a white-chocolate melt-down…

The Dancing Leaf Designs
My friend Norkio is who I turn to for one-of-a-kind, inspirational jewellery and for custom-made pieces that truly resonate with who I am and the mood I’m in with the changing seasons. Noriko created for me a set of summer and ocean inspired jewellery that incorporates red corals with vintage brass charms of starfish and seahorses. And this fall I aksed her to create a custom ring for my daughter’s birthday, providing her with a little pumpkin-illustrated porcelain button; and the notion that my daughter loves the bright colours of orange and red. You can see the result in the photograph. My happy girl likes to marvel at it and even worn it to school (which she never does with any other jewellery).

Quench Jewellery
Kate of Quench Jewellery creates stunning pieces with an organic feel and flowing designs that are mostly inspired by the flora in the Pafcific Northwest - such as her cedar branches and fern casted silver cuffs.
The Cedar Sprigs Stud Earrings make a perfect gift because with earrings you don’t really need to concern yourself with sizing. And the design is just breathtakingly beautiful.

Mindan’s Designs
Mindan’s jewellery is made by hand from sterling silver, and she often incorporates pearls in her designs. Her pearl rings come in a range of sizes and each pearl is just a little different in shape and size, so they are always one of a kind. The Transformer’s Necklace is innovative and can be worn in many different ways, as it breaks down into 3 different lengths of pearl & silver chains.

I always like to have flowers in my home, preferably in every room in the house.
And this season I’m getting close to that dream thanks to potter, designer and artist Grace Lee of Eikcam. Grace has a unique style and innovative uses for clay and porcelain. For example – her sea-inspired jewelry and colorfully glazed buttons are just adorable and surprising. This season, I finally was able to find the time at the One of a Kind Show to snatch a few of her miniature wall-vases: you can hang them on a little nail and either group them together or add a little splash of colour and organic presence of plants and the illustrations on the vases. These are so adorable, I want to put on in every room. And the beautiful thing is – even when there are no flowers in them, they look beautiful and add a spark to surprising spots in the house that until than were somewhat empty.

Gabriels’ Aunt Candles
Before I met met Nikki of Gabriel’s Aunt, I’ve been only exposed to either lame vanilla candles from the grocery store (synthetic and cheap) super-expensive and often not very environmentally friendly candles from high-end brands (over-priced petroleum candles that eventually smell that way after a period of burning) or the last and even less appealing option of candles that are all natural, yet both boring-smelling (lavender, anyone?) as well as with poor throw and uneven burning. Experiencing Nikki’s candles changed the way I think of candles forever – and I became an instant fan. Which is what brought me to work with her on my own candle collection (there are 4 candles at the moment, but there are many more planned for the future).
Soywax candles don’t soot and burn evenly without “tunneling”. But aside from those technical advantages, Nikki’s candles just rock – they always surprise, satisfy and create inspiring atmosphere. Even her most “cliché” holiday candles smell interesting – Under the Tree, for example is such a fine peppermint and pine scent that it almost makes me want to lick the travel candle after opening the lid (and I am not a candy-cane lover!). Hugs and Kisses is a warm spicy holiday candle but with a twist – as the spices go beyond the cliché cinnamon-cloves, with the addition of exotic cardamom and other secret ingredients. And the list goes on, because honestly I can’t remember which candle I tried and did not absolutely love. One of the newest ones, which I burnt last night is Winter Moss: a magical marriage between green galbanum and oakmoss. It’s highly fragrant, elegant and refined. It’s beyond a candle – it’s a perfume for the room.

Well-being, Body and Beauty

Juliet’s Room
Has the most yummilicious body products ever, all naturally scented with essential oils and natural flavours – so you get to enjoy fruity scents like raspberry and white chocolate, or coconut and pineapple. It’s a feast for the nose and the skin at once. The line also includes tried and true skin care products, from cleansers and toners to masks and facial moisturizers. My personal favourites are the Vanilla-Cardamom Milk & Honey hand & body lotion, and the Restore Me serum that does its magic for preventing scarring in teenage skins. And last but not least – the foaming sugar scrub in ginger & lemongrass (good exfoliation for both face and body).

Belmondo Skincare Studio
My friend Daniela of Belmondo Skincare Studio is not only one of the kindest and sweetest souls I’ve ever met; she’s also just launched her own organic skin care line that she developed for quite a while, and includes very simple, pure natural skin care from organic and fair trade ingredients. Everything is made with love and locally and this is what Daniela now uses in her organic facials. Which, by the way, are an awesome, relaxing experience – even my 14 year old autistic daughter loves it and lets Daniela treat her skin for the whole hour while giggling her whole time. Highly recommended.

Whether if you are shopping for yourself this winter, or for someone on your list, shopping local and from designers who create everything by hand and with love means a lot more. When purchasing from these people, you are supporting sustainable, eco-friendly practices, and are helping real people make a living, as opposed to a big greedy corporations that exploit people and the environment and often produce nothing of much interest or innovation.

What are your favourite local designers and products? Please share, wherever you are, and reveal the local gems in your community that make shopping go beyond the transaction.

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Friday, December 17, 2010


Tomorrow is the Last Christmas Sale at Mindan's House and I'm super excited to be one of the guests artists to show and sell my creations at this private event.

Mindan is a talented silversmith and jewelry designer whom I was lucky to be neighbours with at Porotbello West for a bout a year. Her designs are classy with a modern twist - very versatile, clean looking and innovative (as in her transfomer pearl necklace in the video below):

Saturday, December 18th

241 East 17th Avenue @ Main

Come and enjoy some wine, Christmas cookies and homemade treats, and the fabulous creations by local artists and designers.
Art + Beauty
Wine + Snacks
Prizes + Lovely folks

Mindan's Designs--hand made sterling silver jewellery--
Barbara Mcdonald--one of a kind handbuilt pottery
Iulia Manolescu--analog photography
Ayala Moriel Parfums-- all natural perfumes--
Sode--vintage kimono handbags--
Aaron Grain--greetings and greeting cards--
and baked good deliciousness.

RSVP's appreciated, as well as any product requests as this is the end of the season so some items might need to be bottled especially for you :-)

This is the LAST event for the year and I won't be having any tea parties/markets/other events till February. So I really do hope to give you a big holiday hug before we start another new year of fragrant wonders...

This is the last event at Mindan's lovely studio on 17th @ Main street, as her studio will be relocating next year. It is also the last event of the year for Ayala Moriel Parfums. After that we will be on holiday-mode to catch up with much neglected areas of our lives (both personal and studio-wise): inventory control, putting stuff back on the shelves after being in and out of shows for 5 consecutive weeks, and spending much needed downtime with family and friends.

Holiday hours - December 19-January 4th:
Online orders will be shipped as usual, but the studio will be closed to guests so please do your shopping at this event as we will likely not be able to help you in person beyond this point.
We will also be reducing our presence in markets and fairs in 2011, and will be doing mostly private events instead.
The next tea party is planned for February 13th, 2011.

Happy Holiday Season!

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Espionage Reviewed by The Non-Blonde

Read what Gaia Fishler of The Non-Blonde has to say about Espionage.
I'm so thrilled that my very own signature perfume is being loved. Thank you!

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Thursday, December 16, 2010

Greening Beauty & Vintage Lady

Greening Beauty features two of my creations in her Happy Eco-Beautiful Holidays article:
Roses et Chocolat bar, which I created in collaboration with CocoaNymph.
Hanami perfume - which I normally don't talk about much in the winter time, as it is so greatly inspired by the cherry blossom season. Aside for the visual and conceptual theme, which is all about a moody and rainy spring day with the cherry and plum blossoms in full bloom, I think it is quite timeless and could work as a year-around scent.

Vintage Lady raves about our chocolates in her Spanish-written blog, in a post titled El Perfume del Cacao.

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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Chocolate Bars in CBC's On The Coast

CBC's On The Coast recipes column features the scented chocolate bars I created in collaboration with CocoaNymph.

The bars are available online at and in store at:

CocoaNymph 3739 W. 10th @ Alma
(604) 222-4477

Beyond Pilates
928 Davie @ Burrard
(604) 684-9711

Chocolate Mousse
1553 Robson St. @ Cardero
(604) 682-8223

311 West Cordova Street
Vancouver, BC

Little Dream
#130 – 1666 Johnston Street - Granville Island
Vancouver, BC

And they will also be available for purchase, as well as 2 seasonal flavours of freshly rolled truffles at Mindan's Christmas House Sale, this coming Saturday, December 18th, 12-7pm.
Mindan's Designs studio
241 E. 17th Ave. @ Main

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Espionage Chocolate Bar
Elegant chocolate bar that will create a whole party in your mouth!

Bois d'Hiver Travel Tin Candle
Perfect for taking with you on your holiday getaway and bring the forest into any hotel room (or in-laws guest room).
Was featured as a stocking stuffer by Yoyomama at the Vancouver One Of A Kind Show.

Finjan Sugar Scrubs
Energizing and delicious sugar scrubs to smooth away cellulite and for an instant pick-me-up. Comes with a complementary wooden scoop.

Yuzu Bath Salts
Japanese winter solstice bath ritual involves whole yuzu (Japanese citron) fruit in a very hot tub to release the scent. These salts bring to you the essence of this rare fruit and the refreshing aroma of citrus and a hint of hinoki wood and Japanese mint. Wooden scoop included for a lovely presentation.

Gift Card
Let them choose: $65 gift cards towards any scent in our most popular travel size roll-on

Parfum Oil Roll-On
Cozy winter scents in a convenient roll-on. Our recommendation for this season: Bois d'Hiver, Épice Sauvage and Fête d'Hiver

Mini Wardrobe Trio
Three liquid jewels.

Poison Ring
2 in 1: perfume and a conversation piece of jewelry! Choose from our collection of rare, eithnic and vintage poison rings.

One Of A Kind Perfume
Pick a perfume that no one else on earth owns!
Classy gift with a personal touch. Complementary consultation for matching scent to personality!

Signature Perfume
Wow your loved ones with a memorable experience creating their own custom scent with Ayala.
In person at the studio, or via correspondence for customers from out of town.

Please note Canada Post's shipping deadlines:
USA: orders shipped Xpresspost to the USA by December 16th are guaranteed to arrive by Christmas (about $25 for most orders - heavier items will cost more). After that, you will either have to wait, or pay extra for FedEx shipping.
CANADA: orders shipped Xpresspost within Canada by December 22nd. Courier will make it on time as long as order is shipped December 23rd.
INTERNATIONAL: orders must be sent by December 17th, via EMS or courier to make it in time for Christmas

Happy Holiday Season!


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Monday, December 13, 2010

Reviews on Perfume Posse & Perfect Fragrances

Read 8 beautifully written reviews of my scents, by writer Nava Brahe of Toronto, which she ordered last week as a sample package from my website: Finjan, Bois d'Hiver, Bon Zai, Cabaret, Epice Sauvage, Film Noir, Espionage and Immortelle l'Amour.

These reviews are published on Perfume Posse.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Vancouver One Of A Kind Show and Sale

I'm at the Vancouver One Of A Kind Show and Sale December 9-12
Thu-Sat 10am-9pm
Sun - 10am-5pm
Come visit me and get a whiff of rare perfumes that were never before released to the public; and get a sniff preview of perfumes that will be launched in 2011.

Pictured above:
New Orleans - breathtaking oceanic floral
Sandal Tree - exotic sandalwood
Hinoki - Japanese cypress and other rare essences from plants indigenous to Japan
Zangvil - you'll have to check this in person to learn about it.
And there is more...

I'm at the Rising Star section, table no. 13 and right next to my friend Jola V. Designs.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

All Nine Of Them

Haven't got to really enjoy this Channukah... So much to do in so little time between shows and events. I just lit the candles with my lovely, super helpful and patient daugther after she and my brother helped me move into the One Of A Kind Show. My brother even cooked dinner (amazing pasta with garlic fried zucchinis) that night so I can finish packing and do inventory control before we head to the new and beautiful convention centre to set up the new shop for the next 4 days. It was surreal to enter the new convention centre in the space where the show takes place - it looked like a made up microcosmos of all things beautiful and creative; each booth like a little planet of its own and so beautifully set. Everyone was wearing those safety vests in case the place gets completely black-outed and it was just so bizzarre... The overall jet-lag feeling I've been experiencing (from not having much sleep and working day and nights for 4 weeks) contributed to the surreality of the experience - and it did feel like a strange airport, in a very unknown yet beautiful land.

Yesterday was the holiday soiree at House of Jewels, where patrons enjoyed some wine, cheese, the company of some local designers and the lovely Nadene, Leslie and Precia who are always so fun, helpful and generous. And everything was 20% off which was really great, because I could also take advantage of the situation and get myself a new holiday dress, by a local designer, of course :-)

I always enjoy meeting new people, and see their reaction to my perfumes - there is usually an element of surprise. And I am always especially pleased to see gentlemen get won over by scents they never imagined they will like (or more so: finding out that they actually can enjoy and appreciate scent). Last night, the most unusual thing happened though: a gentleman bought himself a bottle of Roses et Chocolat parfum. Now, that's what I consider a small victory for perfume-kind.

From now on light will grow stronger, and winter's darkness will be chased away in no time...
I'm thrilled to be right next to my friend Jolanta who will be selling her beautiful leather bags (from rescued, reclaimed and recycled leather), and to have the help of my friend Tina (she's the elf who always does all your shipping when I go to real faraway lands) and my intern Monique who's been studying perfumery with me for 3 years now.

And until Sunday night, you will likely not hear much from me here (except for mobile updates through my Facebook fanpage - please do join!) as I will be busy manning my show as well as ensuring that all online orders go out in time for Christmas!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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Monday, December 06, 2010

Candle of the Day: Under the Tree

candy canes_heart_reworked, originally uploaded by 1_special_k.

Today I had a very special visitor at the studio: Nikki Sherritt of Gabriel's Aunt, who made a special delivery of my new travel-tin candles for the holidays!

And she came bearing gifts - not of frankincense and myrrh, but of lovely soywax candles that she recently created (which I will tell you about tomorrow), and her tried and true "Under the Tree" scent, which smells like candy cane-decorated Christmas tree. And like everything that Nikki does, it hardly smells cliche at all, and is loveable and diffuses the air nicely and gently with peppermint, pine, and woodsy warm notes of cinnamon and cedar. It's not nearly as tooth-achingly sweet or boring as it could have been. And I suspect it will chase out the pancake and latkes smells that have been really getting on my nerves recently, with my teenage daughter's relentless ventures into my kitchen ;-)

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Sunday, December 05, 2010

Candle of the Day: Roses et Chocolat

Random thought before I pass out... Is it possible that people were buying out my chocolates last weekend because I was lighting my Roses et Chocolat candle?
I tried burning one tealight today, and there were no particularly convincing results. Although, to be perfectly honest, what I did was burn Roses et Chocolat on the side of the table that has the candles displayed; and Bois d'Hiver on the side where all the candles are.
This could make an interesting study topic for someone in undergraduate psychology school, perhaps?


Saturday, December 04, 2010

Candle of the Day: Bois d'Hiver

Bois d'hiver organique, originally uploaded by David Chantoiseau.

Today I was burning tealights of Bois d'Hiver at my table at Portobello West. It's been a while since I burnt it and doing so brought endless comments from passers by about how great the whole area around my table smelled (just from two tiny tealights).
Burning Bois d'Hiver for me is like visiting a place that is very familiar yet mysterious. Making that candle with Nikki of Gabriel's Aunt brought a dream of mine alive. And I just love it when it's that time of the year of cold, snow, storms and I can burn this candle and feel cozy at home while being reminded of forests, fireplaces, ancient temples and old-world pomanders.

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Friday, December 03, 2010

Candle of the Day: ArbitRary

Today was my friend's housewarming party and guess what? She burnt my ArbitRary candle!
I can't think of anything more touching than my own friends enjoying and admiring my scents. Such a wonderful feeling...
As I come back home late at night and this place smells like stale latkes from yesterday, I think this is exactly what I should be doing here: burn some ArtbiRary candle to chase out the fried scent with some nice freshly crushed basil eaves and squeezed lime...
It smells like summer, which is sometimes exactly what I want to be reminded of in the middle of the winter.

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Our Chocolates are in the West Ender's Holiday Gift Guide

Our scented chocolates made it to the West Ender's holiday gift guide. Kudos to our hard working publicist and to Rachel who's working hard on answering to the demand of our chocolate fans!
The chocolates are available via CocoaNymph shop on 3739 10th @ Alma, at my studio, and this weekend - the last market appearance they will have this year at Portobello West.

Happy weekend!

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Congratulations to Shopgirls on their 3rd year anniversary!
Torontians visiting the shop this weekend will enjoy a random 15-50% discount for every purchase they make. Simply participate in the balloon pop and see how lucky you are...
Shopgirls is an exclusive gallery boutique showcasing Canadian designers and artists, including Ayala Moriel Parfums.

Friday, Saturday & Sunday, December 3rd, 4th & 5th
Open hours:
Monday to Friday - 11 am to 7 pm
Saturday - 11 am to 6 pm
Sunday - 12 pm to 5 pm

1342 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON, M6K 1L4

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Second Candle

Happy 2nd night of Hanukkah!
Today I was burning another Gabriel's Aunt soywax candles - Hugs n' Kisses. Spicy with cloves, cinnamon and orange and very much like what you'd expect a pomander or mulled wine to be - but with a twist thanks to a touch of cardamom. This candle is warming, a little woodsy and dry because of the high content of clove oil. It's nice that it's not overly sweet, but I somehow wish it was a little sweeter, with a note like honey. Perhaps it's just my current mood. It has a soft, gentle throw that you can only expect from a naturally scented candle.
For tomorrow, I need to find a candle that will clear out the scent of fried latkes from my home. Opening the window did not help much - the neighbours downstairs were barbqueing (!) of all things. Just when I thought that no one could surpass our stench of burnt oil...

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Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Hanukkah!

Happy Hanukkah to you and yours!
May the holiday be filled with light, warmth and lovely latkes.

The next coming 8 days I'm going to try to mention (can't promise daily full blog posts during market season) scented candles that I enjoy. Today my place smells like Gabriel's Aunt Bohem. And not because the candle is lit, but because it was placed too close to the heater, and when I noticed that, I opened the travel tin to see just at what stage of melting it was... Pretty advanced, I discovered as I spilled a good portion of it on my carpet! That was a very silly idea of a curious mind...
But my living room smells like a pack of fresh tobacco awaiting rolling and it's very lovely even if a little naughty and not particularly Hanukkah-appropriate.
It's a beautiful candle and if you are into quirky, leathery tobacco scents you must try this. It rocks!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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24Hrs Gift Guide Features Winter Fantasy Coffret

This morning I did something I rarely ever do: I got out solely for the purpose of picking up the morning's newspaper. My publicist alerted me I will be in it, and she was right: on page 17 of 24 Hrs newspaper, you'll find a gift guide titled "Perfect presents for the cool chick in your life". And I'm thrilled that one of the 5 gifts that journalist Sarah Rowland picked is our Winter Fantasy Mini Coffret!

Click on the image below to read:

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